A number of Britons are among 19 tourists killed in a hot air balloon crash near the Egyptian city of Luxor, officials said.

The balloon is believed to have caught fire and exploded, before plunging into a sugar cane field west of Luxor, which is 320 miles south of the capital Cairo.

The casualties are believed to include British and French tourists, as well as other nationalities, said a security official in the country.

A Foreign Office spokesman: "We are aware of the reports and we are making urgent inquiries with the authorities in Egypt."

An AP reporter at the crash site said he saw eight bodies being put into body bags and taken away.

According to one report, one tourist and the balloon pilot survived the accident, which happened after a gas explosion at an altitude of 1,000ft.

Hot air balloon trips, usually at sunrise over the Karnak and Luxor temples as well as the Valley of the Kings, are popular with British visitors to Egypt. Sixteen people were hurt, including two British women, when a balloon crashed during a tour of Luxor in April 2009. The balloon was believed to have hit a mobile phone transmission tower near the banks of the Nile.

There were reports - as yet unconfirmed - that two Britons were among those killed.

US photographer Christopher Michel was in another balloon, taking some aerial shots, at the time. He told the BBC: "We flew over the ancient ruins. Just before landing in the cornfields, I heard an explosion and saw smoke. I think it was the balloon behind mine. I wasn't sure what had happened at first. It was only when we landed we heard the full extent of what happened."

UK travel organisation Abta is seeking more information about the accident, as are the UK holiday companies who have people in Luxor at the moment. One company with clients in the area is Thomas Cook. "We are getting in contact with our people in Luxor to get the very latest news," said a Thomas Cook spokesman today. He went on: "Luxor is a popular spot for us and a number of tourists go on balloon trips."